Apple’s recent concession that an iOS 5 glitch is behind the battery problems experienced by some iOS devices was welcome news. It not only let people know that they weren’t imagining things, but its latest update aimed to address this issue. There are, however, a number of other steps you can take to help preserve your device’s battery life.
While the iPhone 4S has been the focus of many battery-life complaints, it’s not the only device suffering from a loss of power. We’ve received anecdotal reports from iPad and iPhone User staff members as well as from readers that these battery-sucking issues affect other devices running iOS 5 – which makes sense.
With its iCloud integration, wireless syncing, and greater use of location services, iOS 5 is bound to pull more power from a device’s battery. The new mobile operating system also makes it easier to push data (contacts, calendars, and email) from a variety of accounts (Gmail and Yahoo, for instance), and with the ability to push data comes an increasingly taxed battery.
If you’ve been having problems with your iOS 5 device’s battery life, you could sit back and hope that it fixes this in the near future – the recent 5.0.1 update didn’t resolve the issue in the way that many had hoped. If, however, you’re more inclined to take an active approach, there are several things you can do to track down the source of your power problems.
System Services Go to Settings > Location Services > System Services. In the resulting screen there will be a series of entries – the number and kind you see depends on the device you’re using. By default, they’re all turned on.
Regardless of whether any of these options are buggy or not, we can see little use for many of them. For example, some people have suggested that the Setting Time Zone option can cause problems as the device constantly checks with a server to see if it’s changed time zones. Unless you’re the ultimate jet-setter, you don’t need to have this option enabled.
It’s also a good idea to switch off Location-Based iAds, and if you don’t use Maps to check on traffic, turn off Traffic too. Switching off Compass Calibration can also help save battery life. At the very least, turn on the Status Bar Icon option, so you can see when your device is using some of these services.
Location Services The ability for your iOS device to tell apps where you are is one of iOS 5’s greatest new features, but if it’s killing your battery, it’s not nearly as helpful as it could be. You can switch location services off entirely by going to Settings > Location Services, and flicking the Location Services switch to the Off position. That’s an extreme action, though, and one you can avoid. Instead, scan down the list of apps and take a look at which of your apps are currently using those services (as denoted by a purple arrow). Do you really need those apps broadcasting your location? If not, switch them off.
With regards to locations, one app to keep a careful eye on is Reminders. You can have reminders appear when you are near a particular location, though this means that your device is routinely checking your whereabouts, which can affect your battery. It’s a very handy feature, but if your device can’t hold a charge it’s one you may want to do without.
Siri If you’ve got an iPhone 4S – Siri is only available on that phone – go to Settings > General > Siri and disable the Raise to Speak option. This is a convenient feature that invokes Siri whenever you lift the phone to your face, but we’ve seen reports that this can cause an undue strain on the battery. With this option turned off, all you have to do to use Siri is press and hold the Home button.
We would resist disabling Siri altogether, however. When you do, the information Siri has collected about you is wiped from Apple’s servers. When you switch it back on, Siri is not terribly responsive out of the box, with the extra issue that it then resyncs that data with the cloud, thus burning up more power.
Push It’s always been the case that when you push data to your iOS device, you’ll put more strain on the battery. To preserve your charge, turn push off by going to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendar > Fetch New Data, and flip the Push switch off. Your device will now fetch data with a setting of your choosing – every 15, 30 or 60 minutes, or manually. Choosing Manually saves the most power as data will be delivered to your device only when you use an app that requests it – when you open Mail, for example.
You can also pick and choose which accounts push (if supported) and fetch. To do that, scroll to the bottom of the Fetch New Data screen and tap Advanced. You’ll find that you can adjust settings for each account you use – iCloud, Gmail, and Yahoo, for example.
Auto-Lock A fellow iPad and iPhone User staff member discovered that when she updated her iPhone to iOS 5, her Auto-Lock settings changed. Before updating your iOS device, she had the phone configured to auto-lock after one minute (thus turning off the display and saving power). After she upgraded, it was set to Never, which will burn up your battery. The Auto?Lock setting is found here: Settings > General.
iCloud The ability to automatically move data between your iOS device and the cloud is fabulous, but it can also quickly deplete your battery.
Go to Settings > iCloud and take a good look at the options you find there. If you don’t routinely create contacts, events, reminders, bookmarks and notes on your device, and you’re willing to forego automatically receiving updates to these items when they’re created on other devices, consider switching some or all of these options off. (You can choose to keep existing items on the device, and they’ll remain viewable.)
Photo Stream is another option to consider carefully, because when it’s switched on every picture you take with your iOS device is uploaded to the cloud. (Images taken with other devices associated with your Apple ID are also downloaded to your device.) This is yet another drain on your battery. Likewise, if you have Documents & Data switched on, more data is sent to the cloud.
Storage & Backup and iTunes Wi-Fi Sync shouldn’t concern you, as they’re designed to work only when the device is attached to a powered connection.
Notifications Those visual and audio alerts require power. Go to Settings > Notifications and switch off those you can do without.
Brightness Your device was not designed, by default, to be a flashlight. If you increase the iPhone, iPod touch or iPad’s brightness setting, understand that you’re doing so at the cost of a shorter battery charge.
AirPlay We can’t even begin to image how quickly you’d deplete a battery charge by streaming a Harry Potter movie from an iOS device to your Apple TV. If you don’t want to find out, plug your device into a power source when you’re using AirPlay. Similarly, if you stream content to your device in the form of movie trailers, LoveFilm content or a music subscription service, you can expect your battery to quickly deplete if your device isn’t externally powered.
Taking all the fun out of it
If you were to disable every option listed here, you’d have an awfully dull device. And if you wanted that, you would have purchased something that lacked the Apple logo. While the recent iOS 5 update took care of the worst battery abuses that can be attributed to bugs and runaway processes, it didn’t completely solve the issue. After all, the extra power and flexibility we demand from our iOS devices, unfortunately, come at a price: a device that asks more of a battery. However, given that many people are having no issues (or, at least, problems not dramatic enough to draw their attention), it’s entirely possible that with only slight tweaks here and there, the most power-frugal among us can have our cake and eat it, too.